Domestic Violence and Family Break Ups in Somaliland: Causes and Consequences

Produced by:  Amplifying civil society voice on GBV coalition members in Somaliland

Gender Based Violence can be defined by where it occurs. Domestic violence or Violence within homes is on them and the most prevalent. This violence between intimate partners is a major social and public health concern. According to the WHO (Fact sheet N°239 and Updated January 2016), global prevalence figures indicate that 1 in 3 (35%) of the women worldwide have experienced such violence in their lifetime.

Despite the fact that exact figures are hard to find as reported by the family unit at Hargeisa district court, Somaliland is not any different to other countries where such violence rates are on the increase and the result of this has been an escalation in family breakups. The dysfunctional family life and relationships ruin the lives of those involved and the short and long term consequences have been felt most by children and women and to a less extent by the men as well.

However, some information obtained from Tawfiiq; a Sharia based office for family issues, an average of 20 families divorced per month in 2015. Reference was made to the month of September 2015 with 18 divorce cases and October 2015 with 28 cases making a total of 48 break ups in the 2 months In Hargeisa.

Several factors have been put forward as causes of domestic violence and family break ups in the different parts of the country. Wide spread unemployment has left many men unable to perform one of their fundamental responsibilities of earning and supporting their families and eventually breaking them up.

It’s also reported that many under age men and women are getting married. These normally struggle to keep with the pressure and responsibilities that arise from these marriages and the result of this is break up.

Last but not least, drug abuse and alcoholism have also had very many effects on the functionality and stability of families. Lots of money is wasted on buying drugs and men have also been reported to batter their wives and children under the influence of drugs.

As a consequence of this many women and children have been forced to abandon their homes and in some worst case scenarios, men have murdered their wives and vice versa. In Somaliland culture, many women tend to run away from their abusive husbands and seek refuge in their parents or relatives homes but this is short-lived solution as they are always sent back to their husbands.

According to the Sharia based offices, family breakdown usually spells misery and a life of negligence for children of the divorcing families. They lose the parental care and love, their right to education is considerably denied. Many of these children usually end up on the streets where they grow up with ill-feelings about themselves. They are abused physically and emotionally as they have no parents to shield them from life’s many cruelties and harsher realities, they feel disowned and neglected.

A young street boy from a broken family testified that “If my family hadn’t collapsed I would be living with pride and honour; I would be competing with kids of my age at school and in the playing ground. I am appealing to parents to disregard divorce because of minor misunderstandings and imperfections please don’t do that, please stay together for your children or else they would suffer like I did, like I feel now. You are stronger together.”

Finally, we all have a role to play in reversing this trend and completely eliminating domestic violence in our communities. Remember the consequences of this affect all of us either directly and indirectly.

The article is part of the project; Amplifying CSOs voices against Gender Based Violence in Somaliland.